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About Plant Phenomics
Phenomics is a field of study concerned with the characterisation of phenotypes as a whole (phenome).
A phenotype is any observable characteristic or trait of an organism, such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, or behaviour.
Phenotypes result from the expression of an organism's genes as well as the influence of environmental factors and possible interactions between the two.
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Removing a bottleneck in plant science research
The need to increase global food production has never been more critical. Current UN forecasts estimate that world output will need to double by 2050.
With most arable land already being farmed and existing agriculture threatened by climate change , the challenge is massive.
Australia faces its own unique issues with long periods of drought and increasing salinity undermining farm productivity.
Substantial investments in recent years by government and industry have enabled Australia to make numerous advances in plant genomics and modern breeding technologies. Globally, the stage has been reached where every crop plant genome is likely to have been sequenced within 10 years.
But science has hit a bottleneck in its ability to understand and to relate the performance of particular plants to their genetic make-up.
Leading plant scientist Professor Mark Tester, Director of the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, says progress on translating the huge database of genomic knowledge into improved agricultural products has fallen behind.
"We are able to study genes and to manipulate them but the study of processes at the level of the whole plant has not been able to keep pace with these advances," says Professor Tester. "As a result we've been falling behind in our ability to measure the effects and consequences of those manipulations."
International capability in plant phenomics
The urgent need for more focused plant research infrastructure and collaboration across science disciplines was identified during development of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) strategy roadmap.
It was found that existing facilities have varying infrastructure dedicated to the growth of experimental plants within conventional glasshouses and plant growth cabinets. There are pockets of high-level capability but they are distributed around the country in a series of unconnected plant breeding and research programs.
It was agreed that progress must be accelerated to improve crops - crops that are more productive, disease tolerant and viable in marginal locations.
To achieve that objective quickly requires a new capability in plant phenomics. Australia has traditionally excelled in molecular biology and plant physiology, but no concerted effort has been made to bring these fields of expertise together.
To address this weakness, NCRIS is supporting funding for the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility, two state-of-the-art centres that integrate the key research areas of plant growth and function.
Building and resourcing of the centres involves unprecedented collaboration between Federal and State Government agencies and research institutions.
The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) provides Australian researchers with the world-leading capability to measure the attributes of plants and relate this knowledge to their genetic make-up.
The APPF has been created through a partnership managed by the University of Adelaide and comprising the Australian National University, Federal, South Australian and ACT governments, the CSIRO and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG).
The facility involves two quite different but highly complementary research centres - The Plant Accelerator® in Adelaide, the APPF headquarters, and the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre in Canberra.
Both centres are world-leading and have already attracted significant international interest.
The University of Adelaide
Last Modified 19/05/2013 Helli Meinecke
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